In “Bird in Flight,” his brush strokes are as free-flowing as Irish author James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness writing. “Lion in the Teargarten” is an avant-garde, fantastical sight, and “HCE/ALP” features a cycle of images as varied yet seamless as a night’s dream-filled sleep.
Joyce’s witty, complex prose isn’t for the simple-minded. So it’s no surprise a man of limitless imagination such as Greensboro-based artist Fritz Janschka would be inspired by it. His latest exhibit, on view through Nov. 20 at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, features paintings and sketches influenced by Joyce.
The 92-year-old artist has been a devoted Joyce aficionado since he first read “Ulysses” 50 years ago. When a friend in Pennsylvania noted the similarities between Janschka’s art and Joyce’s words, the rest was history.
“He said, ‘Fritz, Joyce writes the way you paint,’ and I saw that was true,” Janschka said. “All the twists I do in the painting, he had done in the language.”
The exhibit will feature two collections — one a set of watercolors based on Joyce’s book of poetry “Chamber Music,” the other inspired by the novel “Finnegans Wake.”
Nancy Doll, Weatherspoon’s director, decided Fritz’s lifelong love affair with Joyce warranted special recognition and approached him about doing the exhibit.
“I think they share something in terms of a wry, witty outlook on the foibles of humanity,” Doll said. “He’s taken Joyce’s description and given it a visible format that matches the sensibilities Joyce expresses.”
Janschka’s work has been displayed around the globe from his native Vienna to the Art Institute of Chicago. His passion for art developed early in his childhood but was put on hold during World War II when he was drafted into the German army.
After he was wounded and discharged, Janschka began to fully develop his talent while attending the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and becoming heavily involved in the Fantastic Realism movement. He came to America through an artist exchange program and ultimately became a professor at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia.
His wife, Porter Aichele, coordinator of museum studies at UNCG, was offered a job at the university, and the couple moved to Greensboro, where the warm, jovial artist still paints regularly and sells his creations –– a long way from the young boy who drew pictures of shop patrons and sketches on the sidewalk.
“I got my first 50 cents from someone walking by who thought I was clever for doing that,” Janschka said. “I bought myself a lot of cherries.”
Throughout Janschka’s evolving career, a constant has been his fascination with Joyce. He has read the bulk of Joyce’s work and has spent the past few weeks rereading “Finnegans Wake” in preparation for the exhibit. Janschka said he remains enthralled by Joyce’s writing each time he turns the page.
“I was fascinated to have the insight and description of a writer who took daily life and made it beautiful,” Janschka said. “It was so beautiful because it was a creative process. He created new words and new images. He turned the world upside-down.”
Janschka has dedicated much of his career to communicating visually Joyce’s linguistic intricacies. His “Chamber Music” collection features a watercolor for each poem in the book, all but 10 of which have been sold. He has spent about 35 years contributing new interpretations to his “Finnegans Wake” series.
In Germany, Janschka produced a series called “The Joyce Alphabet,” which featured Joyce characters and images for each letter.
He also has attended Joyce symposiums across the United States and Europe, and he created a cover for a Joyce journal.
“I think people will take away a delight in Fritz’s work itself, and perhaps become a little more interested in Joyce,” Doll said. “And I think those who are already familiar with Joyce will be interested by how well Fritz captures his imaginative spirit.”
Contact Alexa Milan at firstname.lastname@example.orgWant to go?
What: Fritz Janschka: “My Choice: Joyce”
When: On view through Nov. 20
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday; 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Where: Weatherspoon Art Museum, Spring Garden and Tate streets, Greensboro
Information: 334-5770 or http://weatherspoon.uncg.
Etc.: Artist gallery talk at noon Oct. 19